Positive Effects of Travel on Your Health

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Written by Guest | Last Updated January 24th, 2020
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Guest Post by Sahara Rose De Vore

When you think of self-care you probably think about going to the gym, joining a yoga class, spending an hour a day meditating, drinking a green juice, getting a massage, or trying out the newest health trend like testing out your Eskimo skills with cryotherapy or floating in a sensory deprivation tank. These are the typical self-care rituals that we commonly talk about. 

Something that we turn to at different points in our life is travel. When we are feeling stressed out from work, we are dealing with a terrible breakup, there was a death in our life, when we need to shake up a relationship or strengthen the bond with a loved one, or we need to break out of our daily routine and feel something new, we turn to travel. We often do this without recognizing our deeper intent or reasoning. Travel is healing. It fulfills us in a way unlike any other. 

Vacationing is a restorative behavior with an independent positive effect on health where the benefits can take effect before, during, and after a trip. Decades of research show the positive effects of travel on people’s overall health. Travel activities reinforce physical and mental activity, provide opportunities for human interaction, deepens relationships, aids in combating burnout, enables you to disconnect, and improves your self-awareness.

Improves your mental health

Resting the body and relaxing the mind are just two ways that travel helps improve your mental well-being. Being in new environments, having exciting new experiences, meeting interesting people, exercising your senses, increasing mindfulness, learning about yourself and what you want out of life, and being part of something bigger than yourself are a few ways that travel can positively change your mental state of mind. 

Research by psychologists and neuroscientists has found that travel can affect mental change. According to a five-year study by the Wisconsin Medical Journal, “the odds of depression and tension were higher among women who took vacations only once in two years or once in six years compared to women who traveled two times or more each year” and “women who take vacations frequently are less likely to become tense, depressed, or tired.”  Traveling can help you take a breather to focus on yourself, explore your emotions, and realign with your inner self.

The Wisconsin Medical Journal also states that “women who took vacations were much less likely to suffer from depression and other mental health issues, so they subsequently enjoyed a higher quality of life.” Traveling to warm climates, exposure to sunlight, and getting Vitamin D all have a positive effect on depression. 

Travel increases our happiness hormones and keeps them flowing. "One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University. Travel is the opposite of adaptation. Your environment is constantly changing, you hear different languages, you are faced with new decisions and problems to solve, and you are exposed to new foods, people, cultures, and ways of life. Like Matador Network says, “new experiences increase your cognitive flexibility and keeps your mind sharp”. 

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Decreases burnout 

There continues to be a rising burnout epidemic in today’s workforce but studies show that the majority of companies are not prioritizing travel in their wellness programs. Research proves that travel is a key ingredient to combating burnout. 

Taking time for yourself, doing something that makes you happy, checking things off of your bucketlist, being in nature, fulfilling your needs, and exercising the mind and body aids in lowering work-related fatigue and stress. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “a four-day ‘long weekend’ vacation had positive effects on well-being, recovery, strain, and perceived stress for as long as 45 days.”

Benefits of travel are almost immediate. After only one or two days of vacation, 89 percent of respondents saw significant drops in stress according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies and the United States Travel Association. Although traveling can put your anxiety to the test, it can also teach you new ways to cope and learn about your limits.  

Keeps you physically fit

Travel can keep you physically fit both inside and out. Although some vacations may entail plenty of laying on the beach, many also involve plenty of walking and physical activities. Walking to explore new cities, going on hikes, dancing the night away, and snorkeling in the sea are some common physical activities during traveling that keep your body active and your heart strong.

Being fit also means your internal well-being. Exposure to the salty sea air and eating local seafood and marine plants can increase your iodine levels which aids in boosting the immune system. The more that you travel to new environments with different foods, climates, flora, and fauna, the more you build antibodies, ultimately boosting your immune system. 

If you suffer from sore muscles, achy joints, or arthritis, soaking in the salty sea or mineral-rich hot springs can help alleviate pain and stiffness. Places like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, Turkish hot springs, and the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan are prime destinations for this. 

According to a study by The Framingham Heart, “men and women who traveled annually were less likely to suffer a heart attack or develop heart disease.” There is an association between infrequent vacationing and increased incidence of heart problems or death due to coronary causes during a 20-year follow up of women participants. 

Traveling can increase your chance of living longer and having more fun doing it. It is a healthy way to keep your spirit youthful as you age. Multigenerational travel benefits both grandparents and grandchildren. According to the U.S Travel Association, grandparents “cite valuing the opportunity to travel with their grandchildren to help them feel and stay more youthful.”  

New destinations can also make eating healthier easier. Asia and South America are saturated with local markets where you can buy vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. You can try exotic new produce that would otherwise be expensive or non-existent where you live. Various fruits like sour sop, papaya, and persimmons are popular fruits known to have healing properties.

Eastern healing practices like massages and yoga, homeopathic remedies, Chinese medicines, ancient herbals and teas, and meditation are more accessible and affordable when traveling to that region of the world. Traveling gives you the opportunity to align with your inner self and prioritize your self-care from the inside out. 

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Ignites your self-esteem

Traveling also makes you an interesting storyteller. It can boost your confidence levels and self-awareness. Being challenged, trying new things, solving problems on your own, and navigating a foreign place ignites your self-esteem. Vacation offers the opportunity for freedom, intrinsic motivation, creativity, and self-determining factors, which ultimately results in psychological benefits. Studies have shown a connection between travel and creativity, a deeper sense of cultural awareness, and personal growth. When traveling, you expand your mind, adapt to new situations, learn new skills, exercise your thinking process, and become more globally and culturally aware. Travel sends you home with life-long memories to keep and stories to share.

Are you putting travel in the forefront of your self-care regime? Ask yourself what truly drives you to get away and what kind of experience you need to have the wellness outcomes that you desire.

Sahara Rose De Vore is an Intuitive Wellness Travel Coach who has traveled solo to 84 countries. Founder of The Travel Coach Network, she is on a mission to bring travel to the forefront of well-being both in and out of the workplace.

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